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National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada

The Canadian Museum of Nature originated from the Geological Survey of Canada and has a long history of collection-based research. The diverse collections originating from the work of museum scientists and others have amassed over the decades and are housed at our research and collections facility, the Natural History Campus.

Our staff of experts add scientific value to the collections through their research, knowledge of the scientific literature and through extensive and ongoing preservation and conservation activities.

The National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada is a natural-history-museum biorepository of specimens from across Canada and abroad. It is the result of a donation by the Ross Beaty family and officially opened in September 2018.

The state-of-the-art facility uses innovative and energy-efficient liquid-nitrogen-freezer technology to provide -170°C storage for specimens. This adds to the Canadian Museum of Nature's ability to acquire tissues, samples and specimens and maintain them at the highest standard over time—an important component of our ongoing research activities.

Roger D. Bull © Canadian Museum of Nature


The cryobank opens at a time when there is heightened activity in genomic research and a rapid growth in frozen collections. The facility provides support for the systematics and biodiversity research projects of our staff.

The cryobank also provides curated storage of DNA, tissue and phenotype vouchers donated by biodiversity researchers from Canada and abroad.

The facility currently has the capacity for 200 000 specimens housed in 2 mL cryovials. This capacity will grow to over a million specimens with the installation of additional liquid-nitrogen freezers.

Contact Us

For more information about the National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada, contact us at

Specimens and Samples

The mission of the National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada is to provide excellent care for our specimens and easy access to specimens for the international research community.

The collections may contain representatives from all kingdoms of taxonomic classification in the form of tissues, environmental samples, phenotype vouchers and DNA extractions. As an extension of our collection facility, the operation of the cryobank is compliant with all other policies and procedures for the museum.

The museum will consider specimens and samples for acceptance into the cryobank that comply with our requirements for associated information, legal standing, physical condition and other criteria as appropriate. Voucher material as the result of genomic research will be considered. If there are associated whole plants or animals offered for inclusion in the non-frozen collection, they will also be considered.

All specimens and samples accepted by the museum will be considered a donation. The originator will agree to give title of the specimens and samples free and clear of any encumbrance. The specimens and samples will be documented as part of the national collection and treated as such in terms of lending and use by the scientific community, according to the standards and practises of the museum.


The National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada has developed the following standards and reserves the right to change them at any time as it sees fit.

The cryobank has the right to decline donations in whole or in part, at its discretion.

The cryobank will consider the following types of specimens and samples:

  • material that has been obtained legally and that is being presented by its legal owner
  • genetic material preserved in ethanol, DMSO, EDTA, or RNAlater, and fresh or frozen material
  • extracted nucleic acids
  • whole organisms or environmental samples that fit in a standard 2 mL cryovial.

The following items will not be considered:

  • genetic material that has been fixed in formalin
  • whole organisms that do not fit into a standard 2 mL cryovial
  • material that is not supported legally
  • PCR or sequencing products
  • human tissue samples of any kind
  • cell lines or tissue cultures
  • any material that may be harmful (e.g., containing known or suspected zoonotic organisms, toxins or radioactive compounds)
  • any material that is being retained as evidence for legal proceedings.

The following legal issues must be addressed for all specimens and samples being considered:

  • Documentation that demonstrates collection, export, and import were legal must be provided.
  • There must be a clear, written statement declaring the specimens and samples are offered as a donation according to the standard practices of the Canadian Museum of Nature.
  • Any terms of use, such as access and benefit sharing agreements must be clearly stated in writing at the time of the transaction.

Containers, Data and Labelling

To ensure that specimens and samples are of greatest use to the scientific community, easily identified, and integrated into the national collection with the least effort and expense, the following issues are important to consider before donations are made:

  • Specimens and samples must be in containers that are compatible with our storage system. It is likely that the museum will have to rehouse donated specimens and samples. This may result in a cost to the donor.
  • Each list of specimens and samples must be tabulated in an electronic inventory appropriate for inclusion in the cryobank's collection-management system. An example of the appropriate format will be provided by the cryobank staff.
  • Before engaging in collecting activities that will generate samples for the cryobank, researchers should contact the cryobank. Staff will provide pre-labelled cryovials and specimen-data-entry sheets.
  • The inventory for the specimens and samples must include basic scientific data (e.g., the Darwin Core of data). An example of specific information required will be provided by the cryobank.
  • Specimens and samples must have a legible label that is appropriate for ultralow temperatures.
  • Labelling must correspond with the specimen inventory, using unique identifiers for individual containers that clearly distinguish them from others.
  • The cryobank will relabel each vial, consistent with our institutional system.

General Information

The National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada is a function of the Canadian Museum of Nature. It is located at our research and collections facility.

The following are general assumptions regarding the facility and the specimens and samples within:

  • Physical access to the National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada is by Canadian Museum of Nature staff only.
  • Requests for loans and donations will be submitted in writing to
  • If genomic material is from a single individual, a donation of the corresponding phenotype will be substantially intact, with diagnostic taxonomic characters.
  • If the genomic material is from a completely consumed individual, or pooled from multiple individuals, the accompanying phenotype samples should be multiple individuals from one population comprised of both sexes.